16 Oct When Architecture becomes catharsis: reflections of a bitter beauty.
There is something strange about attending a farewell in an airport. You walk with that special person, chat with him, help him with the suitcase and you both are surrounding by people doing the same in a wide, clear, only space. Suddenly, you arrive a yellow line in the floor, or a cordoned barrier, and you know you are not allowed to continue anymore. The moment is there and now. The farewell must be done before that moment, so you don’t interrupt the flow of people; or quickly, with no privacy from all the eyes.
There is something even stranger, and it is the cruelty of the glass wall separating you from the security controls, allowing you to see that beloved one getting away, making you stay and stare, giving you the last glimpses of his image, being the last you see his back getting away. This glass is the hardest membrane, a really thin thing which makes everything worlds apart.
Because of this nimial sponge, each one of you are in the perfect position for feeling bad. It is not only the feeling of a bitter moment, nor the pain of saying goodbye to a person you love: it is the process each one of you are placed to go through in that architecture, an architecture designed in behalf of security and in detriment of provide conditions for souls not to be so hurted.
The one leaving is busy. He must go through several controls, take off shoes, metalic elements, heavy clothes, leave the package and luggage in the scan, keep an eye on everything and at the same time, focus in the person he is leaving behind, the one is still on view.
I take off my shoes, my luggage is under the scan already. I can’t fit all my belongings in one plastic tray, so I am also moving several of them, with my phone, chargers, little bag and more. I look back: you are still there, raising your hand so I know you can see me. I wave back. The asian girl is being slow in front of me, the boy behind me is pushing his trays against mine (cannot all we slow down?). I wear my coat again, my hanging bag, fill my pockets with my little stuff. I look back, and I still can distinguish your blond golden hair. I put the trays in its place, take my shoes… I am barefeet in the cold floor of the terminal. I feel you can see me; even though you are far, I know if I look back you will be staring at me. I walk some steps, turn around, and there you are. I can still notice the napkins in your hands, the ones you are using for your tears. I put my shoes on, I need to tie the laces. Should I wait? I may fall. I knee, knowing that you cannot see me meanwhile I am in the floor. I know you may think I am gone, but I am still here, rearranging myself after that disectomy security controls are. I realized you may leave if you can’t find me in that wave of bodies. I stand up. You are gone. And I still need to tie my left shoe. — Agustín, July 17th 2015, San Diego Airport.
The one who stays must go under the patient torture of being the witness in that cold, emotion-less people digestion the airport becomes. The glass doesn’t just avoid any disturbing violence to spread from an area to another, it’s also a barrier similar to the ones in butcher shops. Instead of containing drops of blood and ocasional pieces of flesh which fly due to the fury of the process, this glass keeps emotions contained. It is a reminder to those waiting about where the feelings belong: not there. Digestion must be clean, efficient and secure.
It allows seeing but not hearing. It allows staring, but not sharing. In the end, one is stressed and uncomfortable, relief to arrive to his plane; and the other leaves with an uncomplete feeling, like if a part of his soul was taken fiercely.
There is beauty in the way you enter Farnsworth House. It is smooth, it is paused, it has stages. Your mind doesn’t cross an entrance abruptly, but it is gently accomodated inside, in transition zones which do not let you realize you are completely inside, until you look out to the wilderness. That is an architecture who cares about the one living it.
Because the question here is: has security killed the emotional part of Architecture? Is security so overtaking or this situation responds to a bad design? The only answer: everything is rethinkable, that is why we know it’s Architecture.
However, there is something beautiful in this emotion. The philosopher Slavoj Zizek talked about how love comes only with imperfection. The endearing foibles as he refers to the sajonic term (1), the real key to make us fall in love with something. People say airports have witnessed truer love kisses than weddings, and purer sorrow tears than funerals. And however, going through this makes us stronger and smile remembering it.
Is this cold and hard imperfection in the design of the airport barrier between departures and boarding the one allowing that? Is that bitter feeling something we need in order to make the experience of farewell honest and worth it? Maybe it would not be the same without the catharsis the process implies.
Maybe that design was mistaken, and that thin glass cruel… but the emotions associated to it worth it. Or improvable. Maybe society does not need their feelings to be overprotected in a soft, convenient and harmless design. Maybe this little shake, this small disruption involves a high capability of resilience.
- Filosofema (June 27th 2016) S. ŽIŽEK – “Del sexo sintético y de ser uno mismo” (subtitulado) [YouTube] Retrieved October 16th 2017 from https://youtu.be/egAWbaIM-84